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Sunday 11 December 2016

Mac could return to haunt Leo

Treviso’s Ian McKinley has made a remarkable return to the professional game of rugby and could face his former team Leinster in their Pro12 opener. Photo: Sportsfile
Treviso’s Ian McKinley has made a remarkable return to the professional game of rugby and could face his former team Leinster in their Pro12 opener. Photo: Sportsfile

"He wouldn't take no for an answer," noted Leinster coach Leo Cullen.

Former Academy out-half Ian McKinley could well return to Leinster on Friday night to remind the home supporters of what they have been missing out on for the last five years.

It all hangs on how Benetton Treviso's new coach Kieran Crowley rates McKinley's challenge to Italian international Tomasso Allan.

"Ian is a special kid, really special," said Cullen.

"When he was here with the academy - I was still playing at that stage - there was just something very special about his personality."

It was back in January of 2011 when a stray boot from his own team-mate caught McKinley's eye and, at that time, ended his career.

Four years later, he returned to the professional arena for the fabled Barbarians before graduating to Zebre's extended squad and, most recently, to the offer of a contract from Treviso, Leinster's opening target in the Pro12 League.

The ex-St Columba's College student contributed to the invention and design of the protective goggles that won approval to be used in the professional game, despite the loss of his sight in one eye.

"He has gone away, started doing a bit of coaching and got back playing, to the stage where he is now a contracted player with Treviso," said Cullen.

"It's an amazing story, really, but it just shows the drive and determination the guy has."

Respective

Meanwhile, Sean O'Brien and Robbie Henshaw are around six weeks away from returning to play from respective hamstring and knee injuries.

This puts the two Ireland internationals right up against the wire for Leinster's PRO12 Aviva appointment with Munster on October 8.

The Champions Cup begins the following week with a hometown hosting of Castres Olympique.

Jack Conan underwent ankle surgery yesterday, with an eight-week period estimated for his recovery.

Last season, the number eight was hindered in his ambition to push Jamie Heaslip by trouble from both ankles.

The scream from Ian Nagle on receiving a blow to the shoulder against Bath does not bode well for the outcome of a scan scheduled for yesterday.

However, the post-match medical opinion was that it sounded more serious than it turned out to be.

Hooker Richard Strauss will be back in four weeks from an operation to clean out his knee.

Full-back Billy Dardis has been held back by a shoulder dislocation that will keep him out for 16 weeks.

Ireland Under-20 Ian Fitzpatrick will have surgery on his cruciate ligament next week.

On a more positive note, club captain Isa Nacewa could make it back for Treviso, based on how his body reacts to contact sessions during the week.

Ireland internationals Cian Healy and Rob Kearney came through 40 minutes against Bath with no adverse reactions.

The level of intensity Healy brought on and off-ball work was very encouraging.

Mike McCarthy managed 45 minutes for the first time since his concussion in February.

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